Long Mile Home
An Excerpt From
Long Mile Home

Reprinted by arrangement with Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Boston Globe Media Partners LLC, 2014.

LONG MILE HOME

Boston under Attack, The City’s Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice

By Scott Helman and Jenna Russell

That’s not a cannon, Bostonfirefighter Sean O’Brien thought when he heardthe first explosion. Maybe a transformer? He was standing in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a couple blocksbefore the finish line. “Obie, that’s a bomb,” the firefighter next to him said. Right then, a second explosion tore through the sidewalk across the street. The first blast had happened in front of Marathon Sports, at 671 Boylston Street. The second explosion, just twelve seconds later, detonated one block to the west, in front of Forum restaurant, at 755 Boylston. Both spots were packed with afternoon crowds. Those who could ran for their lives, away from whatever might happen next – a third bomb? A fourth? Many, like O’Brien, thought the first blast was some kind of accident. When the second echoed, they knew it was something much worse.

O’Brien’s thoughts raced first to his wife and his four daughters. In an instant, he sorted through hisrecent interactions with themand found them acceptable. No fights, no harsh words would stand among their final memories of him. Then he moved forward, over thebarricade toward the bomb scene, the wounded walking toward him in a daze. He could smell the burning. He looked back across the street, near the spot where he’djustbeen standing, and saw a little girl’s bag, pink with flowers, abandoned on the sidewalk. That one’s next, he thought. I know it. He waited for the pink bag to blow up.

* * *

The firstexplosion hadrippled the surface of Jason Geremia’s drink as he stood near the bar inside Forum. Conversations around him stopped midsentence. Smiles faded, replaced by looks of confusion. “What was that?” the bartender asked. The sound was loud, but far enough away that it wasn’t clear what had caused it. Jason turned to look at the front entrance and saw his friends Michelle and Jess standing in the doorway. He didn’t see Heather Abbott, who was supposed to be with them. Justthen the second blast blew his friends into the bar. They were stumbling forward, falling, as he grabbed them and pulled them to the back, away from Boylston Street and whatever had just happened. Everyone else was stampeding the same way.

* * *

Brighid Wall threw her six-year-old son onto the ground when the second bomb exploded some ten feet away to theirright. She lay across him on the sidewalk, her pregnant belly beneath her, and looked back over her left shoulder at the dazed people covered with black soot. She saw a man struggling to stand up; she realized he was struggling because he was missing a leg. The urge to flee seized her then, pushing away shock and fear, and she scanned the ground, looking for the bag that held her car keys. She stood up. Her husband grabbed their son and nephew. A stranger picked up her four-year-old daughter and they all ran into the Starbucks next door to Forum, blood and broken glass and spilled coffee under their feet. People were screaming but the children were silent – waiting, she realized, for someone to make them safe.

* * *

Searching in the smoke for one of his friends, Mike Chase came across a man holding seven-year-old Jane Richard in his arms. “We gotta do something here,” said the man, an off-duty firefighter named Matt Patterson. Chase, a high school soccer coach who had been watching the race, grabbed the belt Patterson had wrapped around the child’s thigh and pulled it tight. Her leg was in bad shape. Jane’s father, Bill Richard, was nearby, holding tight to his oldest son, Henry, who was not badly hurt. Chase looked down and saw his missing friend, Dan Marshall, kneeling on the ground over another little boy. Others bent to join him, trying to help Martin. “My son, my son,” the stricken father said. There was nothing anyone could do.

Long Mile Home

Long Mile Home

Boston Under Attack, the City's Courageous Recovery, and the Epic Hunt for Justice